The art advisory firm Gurr Johns is acquiring London’s Forum Auctions, which specializes in works on paper. Founded in 2016 by former investment banker Stephan Ludwig, Forum will be added to the firm’s newly established division dedicated to auctions.
A major player within the auction space known for liaising on blue-chip purchases, Gurr Johns has previously acquired small-scale London auction houses, such as Dreweatts and Bloomsbury, which it bought for £1.25 million in 2017. The acquisition of Forum marks an attempt to target the high end of the mid-level art market and to engage with an expanded client base.
Ludwig will now serve as co-chief executive of Gurr Johns alongside Ben Clark, who oversees the global art advisory businesses. Ludwig will be in charge of the firm’s auctions, including his former stomping ground Dreweatts, which has in recent months sold valuable English country estates, including those of the Sitwell and Hoare families.
Alongside departments for works on paper and books, the house is known for its focus on editions by Banksy and other street artists. The deal to integrate the small-scale regional house will be finalized in January; Forum’s shareholders will own around a third of the advisory business.
Regional auction houses in the U.K. saw their investments in online sales following the onset of the pandemic pay off, as collectors flocked to the revamped platforms. Recognizing the need for auction houses to develop their online offerings, Ludwig ushered Forum into the digital era, with the house currently operating all of its sales through virtual channels.
Now, Gurr Johns is looking to further capitalize on Ludwig’s gains with Forum. “Marked change in global art collectors’ appetites and activities has spurred digitalization in the art market,” Clark said in a statement. “Revolutionizing the accessibility of artworks to consumers and sellers alike. Our expanded auction division will offer increasingly innovative and integrated services.”